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From his earliest years Abelard had a passionate love of learning,
and he willingly surrendered his rights as the eldest son of a good
Breton family in order to become a student. His first teacher was
the bold nominalist Roscellinus, but even at this stage Abelard
was too independent a thinker to accept the doctrines of any
master. After a year with him he paid a brief visit to Chartres,
where he tried without success to learn mathematics. Thence
he proceeded to Paris to study under William of Champeaux,
whose position was the very opposite of that of Roscellinus ; and
again he found himself in conflict with his master. He aspired
to open a school of his own in Paris. But William, with the
authority of the cathedral school behind him, refused permission,
and Abelard had to begin his career as a teacher in a town some
thirty miles away. After some years of retirement on account of
broken health, he returned to Paris and won a notable dialectical
victory over William. Somewhat later he set up school in Paris
outside the jurisdiction of the cathedral school, and great numbers
of students flocked to hear his brilliant discourses on logic. But
Abelard was a man of tremendous ambition and was not content
to remain a teacher of the arts. To qualify himself as a theologian
he became a student again under a master of theology, and in
course of time succeeded William in the cathedral school. He
had now reached the height-of his fame, and thousands of students
came to Paris from every quarter of Europe to attend his lectures.
But in the very hour of his triumph the enmity of his theological
opponents got its opportunity in his tragic misadventure with
Heloise, and he was compelled to withdraw from the world to the
abbey of St. Denys. Even then he was not allowed to cease his
work as a teacher, for eager students forced themselves on him
in his seclusion. He became involved in fresh controversies,
and his life ended unhappily in the bitterness of unmerciful

In philosophy Abelard occupied a position midway between
nominalism and realism. He accepted the affirmations of both
while rejecting their negations, and thus developed the con-
ceptualistic view, a view akin to that of Aristotle, of whom he was
a careful student. He did not think of ideas as having any actual
existence apart from individual things, and yet he insisted that in
so far as they are necessary for the human mind they have a reality
of their own. But it was not Abelard's philosophy which gave